"Sippin' on Coke and rum. I'm like, 'So what? I'm drunk,' " sings Robert Sylvester Kelly in his popular 2002 R&B number "Ignition (Remix)." "It's the freakin' weekend, baby. I'm about to have me some fun."
For one reason or another, Ben Todd, head honcho of local punk blog and (as of November) record label Nashville's Dead, selected the aforementioned lyric as the titular inspiration for his site's second annual rock 'n' roll free-for-all. Slated for March 4, 5 and 6, the Freakin' Weekend — the second installment of what Todd hopes will continue as an annual tradition — will take place at Exit/In, The End, Third Man Records and Springwater, and will feature performances from Nuggets-inspired Puerto Rican rockers Davila 666, fellow garage gurus Jacuzzi Boys and Ty Segall, and local punk-rock outfits JEFF the Brotherhood, Turbo Fruits, PUJOL, Natural Child and Heavy Cream, among others.
Just shy of 2 years old, Nashville's Dead has become more than just a blog. The website (www.nashvillesdead.com) is something of a lifestyle zine for the digital age, featuring pictures, reviews, previews, videos and "shreditorials" related in one way or another to the local house-show, punk and garage-rock scene. With the release of singles from local outfits The Paperhead and Useless Eaters, Nashville's Dead launched their very own record label this winter, and they've also co-hosted events at Jack White's Third Man Records, where Todd frequently serves as an in-house DJ.
"He's always working," says Bekah Cope, who functions as Nashville's Dead's primary photographer. She tagged along when Todd met up with me at Melrose Billiards on Eighth Avenue South. Cope and Todd graduated from Brentwood High School in 2006, and as Cope explains from behind her cranberry juice — neither of the two drinks alcohol very often — have been "best friends since [they] were 15." Now, Todd runs Nashville's Dead almost single-handedly, occasionally doing mercenary-style day work for places like Third Man and local clothing boutique Local Honey to help make ends meet. He also performs with several bands — many of which regularly go in and out of hiatus mode — including, but not limited to, D. Watusi, Useless Eaters, Ben Steine's Money and So Jazzy.
Todd jokes that at 22, he's already begun to feel like "an old guy," thanks in part to the high-schoolers and earnest young punks who turn up at the shows he helps put on. He cites Fox Fun, a duo of unapologetic blues-punk-playing 14-year-olds, as a local act he's particularly excited about. And that's precisely the sort of people Todd hopes to turn on to rock 'n' roll. Just as established local garage-rockers like The Clutters, JEFF the Brotherhood and the Third Man crew play older brother to many of the Nashville's Dead boys and girls, they too hope to usher in an entirely new generation of greasy, starry-eyed youngsters whose primary worldly desires are to play guitar and assemble badass record collections.
Last year's Freakin' Weekend took place mostly at house shows, with the mirthfully named Glenn Danzig's House serving as the flagship venue. (Todd lives there with fellow punker and slated Freakin' Weekend performer Cy Barkley.) While Todd and Barkley still frequently host shows at Danzig's, Todd points out that bills featuring touring psych- and garage-revivalist heavyweights like San Francisco's Ty Segall, Florida's Jacuzzi Boys and our very own Turbo Fruits would need loads more room. And most importantly, Todd notes, this time around they can get the touring acts a bit more money.
At first glance, the Nashville's Dead scene can seem incestuous and self-referential. And sure, there's a lot of bandmate sharing, inside jokes and self-promotion. But Todd insists that first and foremost, he wants the Nashville's Dead umbrella to be a wide one — not an elitist one.
"I think more people are starting to realize that ... people want to come to town and play with the bands here," he says. All he hopes to do is help facilitate that, and — as Cope points out — he never stops thinking up ways to do so. In addition to the four shows slated for this weekend, Todd also plans a "pop-up shop" of sorts to be hosted at Local Honey, where folks can meet up and hang out before the shows. What's more, Nashville's Dead is planning the release of a D. Watusi single in the coming weeks, plus more shows and some sort of two-year anniversary celebration come summer. He'll be at South by Southwest, too, and he jokes that — if he isn't dead by 30 — he'll probably just keep trying to get folks, young and old, out to rock 'n' roll shows for as long as possible.
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